The aim of Fear of the Dark was to put on a spoken word event like no-one had seen before. As you can see from the picture, last night's event wasn't your usual spoken-word night. Thank you to Kay Sexton, Bernadette Cremin, Glue Gun '91, Strawberries & A Peach and the Marlborough Theatre for helping make it such a great night. I am going to write a proper post, but that can wait tomorrow. My plans for tonight involve watching House and soaking in the bath.
I wasn't planning to organise another night in the near future, but I had an idea for an event this afternoon…
The final preparations are being made for tomorrow night's Fear of the Dark event. We had a meeting last night to plan the last few details and I'm very excited. When we started work on the event we wanted to do something special and I think we've managed that – tomorrow will be different to any spoken word night you've seen.
I'd love to say more, but I have a couple more things to do before bed. The night starts 8pm at the Marlborough Theatre. For more information look here.
Tonight I hosted a flash fiction workshop at the Skiff with Ellen de Vries as part of Write Club. The evening was something of an experiment, but it seems to have worked very well.
The night was divided into four rounds. In each round we projected a creative commons photo from flickr on a screen. Everyone in the group then wrote a story inspired by the photo. Afterwards each person took turns to read what they'd written. Apologies were banned – you read what you wrote and let it stand or fall on its merits. In the first round people spent fifteen minutes writing; after that came rounds of ten, five and finally two minutes.
I'd expected the finished work to be scrappy, sometimes left unfinished when the time expired. I also expected a few squibs, where the story hadn't worked and there was no time left to salvage anything. I thought it would be interesting to acknowledge the part played by dissatisfaction and failure in the creative process.
For me, the biggest surprise of the evening was how good the work was. I heard 35 stories (one person arrived after the first round) and each of them was strong and more-or-less complete. Any of them could be developed into a complete piece, given time and polishing. I'd expected the evening to produce some interesting lessons about writing; instead it produced some exciting and entertaining work that I loved listening to.
We're definitely going to do another session soon. Tonight has been the most fun I've had writing in ages. And, to quote Mr. Hume: "first rule of write club was: you don't make any fight club references when talking about write club". Mercifully, I kept to that rule.
The picture below is from exmosis, and was the image used in the 10-minute round:
I've been meaning to blog various things recently, but they'll have to wait until after next week. Tomorrow I'm running a writing workshop and on Thursday we have Fear of the Dark. It's going to be a busy week but I'm as excited as I am nervous.
I took time off last night for White Night. I'd slept through Saturday afternoon (I have a weekend napping problem) so it took me a while to get into things. I wandered around loving the pianos placed in the street and accidentally finding a singer on a North Street balcony doing the famous bit from Carmina Burana.
I met up with Kay Sexton and went to Fabrica. There was a fantastic atmosphere at the gallery, with a cafe and lots of drawing activities.
Nobody likes a stick-in-the-mud, so I tried drawing one of the faces in the gallery. Drawing fascinates me as, like writing, you aim to represent a reality by favouring certain aspects of a thing. Extracting significant visual information from a face was fascinating. The more I tried to sketch the faces in the gallery, the more I noticed shapes and curves, becoming more sensitive to the way the faces were composed, how different they looked when their angle shifted. While the faces might not have been recognisable as the ones I was sketching, they did at least look like faces, which was a pleasant surprise.
White Night was fun but, like a summer festival, it was as much about walking around and queueing as anything else. Still, it was lovely to see so many people out and to bump into old friends. I didn't have the stamina to stay up till the end (a dawn choral work on the beach near the fortune of war) and went home fairly early.
(Sadly I couldn't get in to Jake Spicer's Drawing Cards from the Deck session – preparations pictured below – but I think I will go along to the Brighton Life Drawing Sessions soon and try some more drawing)
I also went to see AK/DK on Friday night at the Leisure Sports Discotheque, where they played with :Kinema: and Trance Farmer. It was a great night and I stayed out longer than I should have done. Here is a photograph of AK/DK:
Two drummers! Two drummers! And synths.
I'm very excited about Fear of the Dark next Thursday, but putting on a night is also a little nervewracking. There are so many things to remember and I occasionally find myself worrying, just before falling asleep. What if I've forgotten something? What if nobody comes, and we're forced to perform to an empty theatre?
But there are some wonderful things about organising a night, one of which is watching a series of performers you think are great. I've just made the final addition to the bill, which is a musician, Strawberries and a Peach (you can listen to some tracks of her tracks on the myspace page).
Meanwhile, I'm continuing preparations with the other performers. I think this is going to be an exciting night, and will certainly be different to anything you've seen before. Tickets are available in advance from the Marlborough or, with paypal, from fearofthedark.eventbrite.com. You must come!
Last Tuesday I read at the 5th Sparks night, a flash-fiction evening held at Brighton's Three-and-ten. I opened the night with my story 'meat', a tale of vegetarians, bondage and Internet pornography. At Sparks each of the stories is accompanied by a specially commissioned photograph and I read in front of an image that included a bare-chested Burt Reynolds.
The night had a well-chosen mix of stories. Sadly Nik Perring could not attend, but I enjoyed his story 'Sharkboy', which was read by Jo Mortimer in his absence. The night also featured poet Tim Wells, whose new collection, Rougher Yet, is fantastic. The only blemish on the night was my decision to go for a meal in Buddies afterwards.
Some exciting things are on the horizon for Sparks, including talk of an anthology in the near future. The next night is on November 3rd and submissions are currently open. You'll have to be quick though, as they close on Thursday 15th. The guidelines are: '1000 words or fewer, any theme. Send in the body of an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and if accepted, come and read.' Sparks is a lovely, friendly night and well worth submitting to.
Me in action, photographed by Nikki Acott
The Daily Telegraph has published an article on performance poetry today. It's a good overview of the scene, given the limited space. I was surprised at one section though:
"According to Geraldine Collinge, director of Apple and Snakes, the main
organisation promoting performance poetry in Britain, there are around 1,000
poets now making a primary living out of performance."
While I'd be delighted if there were 1,000 people making a "primary living" from poetry performance in the UK, the number does seem a little high. If it were true, I'd expect more of the poets I know to be living the high life and not working 'first jobs' as something else.
At the end of the month I will be teaming up with Glue Gun ’91 to put on a very special Halloween spoken word event. Fear of the Dark will start in a brightly lit theatre, with the lights fading as the night continues, until the final acts are performed in near-complete darkness. We promise an entertainment like you’ve never experienced!
I will be reading short stories about clowns, zombies and worse. Rufus Moonshine and Gimley Whipple from Glue Gun ‘91 will be unleashing their own special blend of mayhem, including a performance of Swan Lake featuring special guest ‘Ruth Ellis’. Kay Sexton will be reading short stories and there will be poetry from Bernadette Cremin. We also have a musical interlude and a special guest appearance.
I’m very excited about this event. I met up with Rufus and Gimley earlier this week to discuss what we’re going to do. Every so often we’d come up with an idea, look at one another and decide that, maybe, that was going too far. We’re aiming for a mood a little like Jam and have some lovely ideas.
The night will start at 8pm in Brighton’s Marlborough Theatre on Thursday 29th October. Tickets are £5 (or £4 for concessions). You can buy tickets on the door or in advance. I’ll post a web link soon, and there’ll be tickets available behind the bar at the Marlborough from this weekend.
I didn’t even mention the apple bobbing, the cake, or the any of the other stuff… Fear of the Dark is going to be something special: you must come!
I'm going to be running a writing workshop on October 26th with Ellen de Vries as part of Brighton writing group Write Club. To quote the announcement:
Monday 26th October, 7-9 pm
at The Skiff. 49 Cheltenham Place, Brighton BN1 4AB
Not for the faint hearted.
Challenge yourself. This writing workshop will put you on the spot – you have no choice – you have to write a poem or short story for a set amount of time, and you HAVE TO perform it.
We’ll be writing for 20 mins, then 10 mins, then 5 mins, and performing our work at each stage. Yes we’re scared too. Who knows what will happen? Its an exercise in writing with adrenaline and driving out those pesky whiny inner critics for an evening. Join us 🙂
I'm not a big fan of workshops as a means of critique but I think they can be an excellent environment for sparking creativity and generating ideas – some of my most satisfying stories started as workshop pieces. Writing with a limited time available, knowing you're going to read it out loud when the time limit is up, can be a massive spur to imagination.
The workshop will be, in part, an experiment, but I think it will be a lot of fun too. If you'd like to join in then turn up on the night or mail me
My new post for the Literature Network went live yesterday: 7 Tips for being a Great Writer.
Nobody has written the how-to-write guide I want to see (although one friend used Ted Morgan’s Literary Outlaw as a template, with disastrous but compelling results). Life is too short for me to write my ideal writing guide, but here are the top seven tips I’d like aspiring writers to follow.
The piece was driven by an irritation with the tone taken by much writing advice. Too many recommendations suggest that they are universal, and rules like ‘show, don’t tell’ are repeated without full critical consideration. In addition, there is a warm, encouraging tone to much of the advice given, something I’ve questioned previously.
(The popularity of writing advice makes me wonder if more writers are reading discussions of how-to-write than are reading literary magazines?)
One article that inspired my tips on Great Writing was Sara Crowley’s Why you can take your “You must write every day” advice and shove it… I chose not to link to the piece as the section of my article attacking the write-every-day rule had very different aims in mind; but I recommend read Sara’s piece, which also questions the idea that writing advice is universal.
I enjoyed writing my 7 tips, and reading the responses (I’m in the middle of replying to the comments). One thing that has been interesting is that people have attacked particular points while ignoring some of the more irresponsible ones.
Following all the tips in my article would be foolish for most people but I hope the point is obvious: that for others this might be better advice than the more conservative suggestions available.